This is a silent film-heavy week.
Leap Year, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. I have a good reason to have never seen Roscue “Fatty” Arbuckle’s last starring feature; this will be only its second public screening in the Bay Area. A major box office draw at the beginning of the 1920s, Arbuckle’s popularity came to a sudden halt with accusations of rape and murder in 1921. He was eventually acquitted (and no historians today believe he was guilty), but his career was ruined. Leap Year was the comedy he had just completed when catastrophe struck, and thus was never released. I have no idea if it’s any good, but knowing Arbuckle’s work, it probably is. And even if it isn’t, it will be preceded by shorts starring W. C. Fields and Stan Laurel. Everything will be accompanied by Judy Rosenberg at the piano. You can read more about it in Thomas Gladysz’s article.
A Our Hospitality, Stanford, Friday, 7:30. Three years before he made The General, Buster Keaton mined the antebellum South for comic gold in this almost gentle comedy about a Hatfield/McCoy–type feud. Still adjusting to the long form of the feature film (this was only his second), Keaton fills Our Hospitality with funny gems that have little to do with the story–like the journey from New York to the backwoods on a very early train (the movie is set around 1840). When Buster finally arrives at his destination, he finds himself a guest in the home of men sworn to kill him. Luckily, the code of southern hospitality forbids killing a guest…as long as he’s in your house. Read my Blu-ray review. With the Keaton short “The Balloonatic.” Dennis James will accompany both movies on the Stanford’s Wurlitzer pipe organ.
A The Lady Vanishes, Stanford, Saturday through next Friday. The best (and second to last) film Alfred Hitchcock made in England before jumping the pond, The Lady Vanishes stands among his best. This is Hitchcock light–starting out as a gentle comedy and slowly building suspense, but never taking itself too seriously. Only North by Northwest is more enjoyable. On a double-bill with The 39 Steps, which I haven’t seen in too long a time.
A Metropolis, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. The first important science fiction feature film still strikes a considerable visual punch,and with the latest restoration, tells a compelling story, as well. The images–workers in a hellish underground factory, the wealthy at play, a robot brought to life in the form of a beautiful woman–are a permanent part of our collective memory. Even people who haven’t seen Metropolis know them through the countless films it has influenced. Recently-discovered footage, which restores it to something very much like the original cut, elevates the story of a clash between workers and aristocrats from trite melodrama to grand opera. Read my longer report and my Blu-ray review. Digitally projected, and using the recorded score rather than live accompaniment..
A Dr. Strangelove, Oakland Paramount, Friday, 8:00. We like to look back at earlier decades as simpler, less fearful times, but Stanley Kubrick’s “nightmare comedy” reminds you just how scary things once were. Thank heaven we no longer have idiots like those running the country! It’s also very funny.
A- Hot Fuzz, Castro, Friday. Director/co-writer Edgar Wright fills every frame of Hot Fuzz with his love for mindless action movies. More precisely, he fills the splices between the frames, cutting even the scenes of quiet village life in the frantic style of Hollywood violence–accompanied by overloud sound effects, of course. (And yes, he’s smart enough not to overdo it.) This technique, along with a funny story, clever dialog, and charming performances, help make this genre parody the funniest film in years, with the longest sustained laugh I’ve experienced since I first discovered Buster Keaton. On a MiDNitES for MANiACS triple bill with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Shaun of the Dead.